On Wednesday evening, the Calgary Flames announced that they have signed forward Jonathan Huberdeau to an eight-year, $84 million contract extension with an average annual value of $8.4 million. This is exactly what the organization wanted, as it not only softens the blow of losing Johnny Gaudreau to the Columbus Blue Jackets, but it makes the Matthew Tkachuk trade feel like a bigger success. Despite that, many are opposed to this deal.
Those complaining about it have pointed out that Huberdeau will be 30 years old when the contract begins in 2023-24, suggesting that it will age very poorly. That is a valid concern, given that most players begin to regress when they reach their 30’s, but that said, management isn’t focused on that at this point and time.
Flames Not Worried
The Tkachuk trade that saw Huberdeau, Mackenzie Weegar, Cole Schwindt, and a conditional 2025 first-round pick brought in from the Florida Panthers proved one thing: the Flames are still looking to win now. In order to do that, they needed to sign Huberdeau, who has been one of the league’s most productive wingers over the last four seasons, to a long-term deal
One thing many are forgetting is that the Flames offered Gaudreau, who is only two months younger than Huberdeau, an identical contract. That one, too, would likely have aged poorly in its final years, but again, management wasn’t thinking about that. With elite players, you worry about the now now and the later later.
This past season, Huberdeau’s 115 points not only tied Gaudreau but were second in the NHL behind Connor McDavid, proving just how talented he is. In fact, over the past four seasons, his 346 points (in just 286 games) rank fourth in the league, trailing only Patrick Kane, Leon Draisaitl, and McDavid, while Gaudreau ranks 10th in that same span with 321.
Given his production, if the Flames weren’t willing to offer Huberdeau that term and money, another team likely would have in free agency next year. Sure, they could have traded him for prospects and/or picks instead, but they would have been left hoping that one of those picks or prospects ended up being anywhere close to as good as Huberdeau.
On top of that, while Huberdeau will be 30 when he enters the first year of his new deal, 30 is very different for athletes today than in years past. Now, players – especially elite ones – have the knowledge of what it takes to prolong their careers and extend their prime. Patrick Kane, for example, at the age of 33, proved he is still at his very best with 92 points in 78 games in 2021-22.
Sidney Crosby is another great example, as he is coming off 84 points in 69 contests at the age of 34. Then, of course, there is the ageless wonder, Alexander Ovechkin, who at the age of 36 just scored 50 goals and 90 points in 77 games. Sure, these players are all generational talents and undoubtedly will have better careers than Huberdeau, but he could easily still be playing at a high level in his early-to-mid thirties.
Last but not least, when or if Huberdeau does begin to struggle during his contract, that’s when it will become a problem or Flames management to focus on. Whether they can trade him or are forced to ride it out and struggle for a season or two remains a decision to be made in the future, and there is little to no sense in worrying about that right now. The team’s main goal is to bring a Stanley Cup to Calgary, and general manager Brad Treliving’s ability to get this deal done gives them the best opportunity to do that now.
Colton Pankiw is a former Jr. A hockey player who now provides his knowledge of the game through writing. He’s been a very active and reliable source for nearly two years at The Hockey Writers. He is a credentialed writer for the Calgary Flames but also does features on other teams throughout the league. Other writing contributions include: Yahoo Sports, Las Vegas Chronicle, Oil On Whyte, and Markerzone.com. Colton is also a co-host of both Oilers Overtime and Flames Faceoff podcasts. Any interview requests or content info can be made through him on Twitter. Take a look at his work here.